By Lindsay Kimbrell
The hog debate has really gotten hot the last couple of months, and I don’t understand why. Since when did so many care about a feral hog?
But farmers and ranchers like myself do. We care about the damage they cause and the crops they destroy.
We’ve been trying for years in multiple ways to reduce the feral hog population on our farm, and it’s not working.
These hogs are ruining our farmland by roughing it up, digging up our crops, knocking down crops and just totally wrecking it.
We lost an entire 40-acre field that was planted with corn in just a matter of days.
Once we replanted the field, a trapper offered to stay up all night for multiple nights on a sort of “night watch” until the seeds sprouted. Once the seeds sprout, the threat is lowered, because the hogs only like the seeds.
We’re usually hog-free until the corn plants start putting on a cob. Then the feral hogs return, knock down plants and eat the corn, making a huge mess and of course cutting into our food supply and profit.
The cost of damage caused by feral hogs for our family farm? Tremendous.
On average, seed costs $250 per bag of corn, which will plant about three acres. The 40 acres of corn we lost cost us about $3,300. That expense grows with each acre they destroy.
That’s a lot of money a farmer like us will lose each year. And that doesn’t count the starter fertilizer that’s put out with the seed and the diesel used in the tractor that planted it.
We’ve tried several ways to stop the feral hogs, including the aerial method with helicopters and trapping.
Hunting from a helicopter, however, is difficult because some complain about the noise and you can’t hunt while flying over someone’s property without their permission.
Trapping was effective for a while, but it also has challenges. Theft of traps and wet ground made it hard for the trapper to check and bait the trap once it’s set.
Of course there are always people offering to ground hunt, but the idea of people we don’t know walking around our land with guns doesn’t seem safe. Many farms are leased, which means the farmer doesn’t own it. So for someone to hunt the land, it would require contacting the landowner, which sometimes is hard to do, as some owners don’t live in the state.
And feral hogs are smart. Once a mature hog has learned of a trap, has been shot at or harmed, they typically will move on, making them hard to keep in one area.
A 2004 survey conducted by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service placed annual damage to agriculture in Texas at $52 million, with an additional $7 million spent by landowners to attempt to control the pigs and/or correct the damage.
There have been local and only temporary reductions in the wild hog population, but they continually come back and once again destroy our land.
They are unmanageable at present, which has proven to be a huge challenge for anyone who owns land and tries to earn a profit from it or just enjoy it.
Warfarin (Coumadin) would be an option for some farmers. The dosage used in hog bait would be one-fifth of the strength of over the counter rat bait, because hogs have a limited tolerance for the product.
What are we supposed to do? Let these animals continue to ruin our land and food supply?
Seeing a hog, an invasive species, in our field, eating the profit that feeds our kids, pays our bills, and keeps a roof over our head makes it hard to handle.
We don’t call this hunting. Hunting is something you do for food purposes or as a sport.
We call it pest control. That’s exactly what we want to do to the animals that threaten our food supply and our living—eradicate enough of them to matter.
After all, what’s more important, a wild hog or our food?
Lindsay Kimbrell and her husband, Todd, grow wheat and corn in Central Texas.